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  • Narrator: Cucumbers usually cost under $3 a kilo.

  • But sea cucumbers can set you back over $3,000 a kilo.

  • In fact, they're so valuable

  • people will risk their lives to get ahold of one.

  • They might not look it, but sea cucumbers

  • are pretty special creatures.

  • Just ask this guy, Steven Purcell,

  • one of the world's foremost experts on sea cucumbers.

  • Purcell: They're quite strange animals.

  • They don't have any limbs, they don't have any eyes.

  • They have a mouth and they have an anus

  • and a whole bunch of organs in between.

  • Narrator: These otherworldly animals

  • have been prized as a delicacy in Asia for centuries,

  • where the wealthiest class would eat the animals

  • as a nutritious high-protein treat.

  • But it wasn't until the 1980s that demand exploded.

  • A growing middle class in China

  • meant more people could afford the luxury.

  • Today, they're typically dried and packaged in ornate boxes,

  • then given as gifts and served on special occasions.

  • So, the fancier and more unusual-looking, the better.

  • And more expensive.

  • It turns out.

  • Purcell: The spikier the animals, the higher the price.

  • Narrator: And of the 1,250 different species

  • of sea cucumber in the world,

  • the Japanese sea cucumber takes the cake.

  • Purcell: Imagine some sort of mystical dragon

  • slug with all these sort of spikes coming out of it.

  • Narrator: At up to $3,500 a kilo,

  • it's the most expensive sea cucumber on the market.

  • Compared to other varieties, like the Golden Sandfish,

  • Dragonfish, and Curry Fish.

  • And even if you order a common species on Amazon,

  • you could still pay over $170 for a plate.

  • Besides presentation, cucumber connoisseurs also value

  • thick, chewy bodies, and to a lesser extent, taste.

  • But the experience of eating them

  • is only part of their appeal.

  • Turns out sea cucumbers contain high levels

  • of a chemical called fucosylated glycosaminoglycan

  • in their skin, which people across Asia have been using

  • to treat joint problems like arthritis for centuries,

  • and more recently in Europe, where people are using it

  • to treat certain cancers and to reduce blood clots.

  • The sea cucumber craze now comes from all sides.

  • You have the original Asian delicacy demand

  • that started in the 1980s, and the new interest

  • from Western pharmaceutical companies.

  • In response, nations have clamored

  • to harvest their local species.

  • From Morocco to the United States to Papua New Guinea,

  • everyone wants in on the sea cucumber trade.

  • Purcell: It's just spread like a contagion

  • from one country to another.

  • Narrator: For example, from 1996 to 2011,

  • the number of countries exporting sea cucumbers

  • exploded from 35 to 83.

  • But unfortunately, sea cucumbers couldn't handle the strain.

  • In Yucatan, Mexico, for example,

  • divers saw a 95% drop in their harvest

  • just between 2012 and 2014,

  • and that's a problem for everyone.

  • For one, because the more sea cucumbers are harvested,

  • the rarer and more expensive they become.

  • Average prices rose almost 17% worldwide

  • between 2011 and 2016. And the rarer these animals get,

  • the deeper divers are swimming to find them.

  • That's when fishing gets dangerous.

  • Purcell: Some countries, they're doing that

  • without either a lot of training.

  • In some of the tropical countries,

  • you're getting a lot of people either

  • becoming paralyzed through decompression sickness.

  • Narrator: So far, at least 40 Yucatan divers

  • have died trying to harvest sea cucumbers.

  • And as demand continues to increase,

  • the problem is only getting worse.

  • Of the 70 or more species of exploited sea cucumbers,

  • 7 are now classified as endangered,

  • all through exploitation, forcing

  • numerous fisheries worldwide to shut down

  • and damaging local economies in the process.

  • So, why not farm sea cucumbers

  • and leave the wild ones alone?

  • Well, it's easier said than done,

  • since many larvae die before reaching maturity,

  • and those that do survive take two to six years

  • to grow to a marketable size.

  • That said, aquaculture for a few varieties

  • has started to take off.

  • Like with that fancy Japanese sea cucumber.

  • Purcell: There's now aquaculture in China in the billions.

  • Narrator: Hopefully more species will be farmed

  • instead of fished in the future,

  • if not to protect local economies

  • and help develop potentially life-saving drugs,

  • then at least to preserve a fascinatingly bizarre animal.

Narrator: Cucumbers usually cost under $3 a kilo.

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ナマコはなぜ高価なのか? (Why Sea Cucumbers Are So Expensive | So Expensive)

  • 112 2
    Winnie Liao に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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